(CNSNews.com) - Given the opportunity to plug his big-government agenda in Scranton on Wednesday, President Joe Biden spent the first 12 minutes wandering down memory lane, telling stories about his early life in that city.
Some of those stories involved Amtrak -- the familiar tale of Biden riding the rails to Delaware for so many years as a senator.
When the almost-79-year-old president finally got around to the main point -- explaining the two "infrastructure" bills Democrats want to pass simultaneously -- he returned to the topic of train travel, which in his mind will take "millions" of cars off the road.
"Both these bills are going to help us meet the moment on the climate crisis in a way that creates good jobs, makes us more economically competitive -- $66 billion in passenger rail and freight rail," Biden said.
Why (do) I always talk about passenger rail and particularly high-speed rail? You realize the Chinese are now building another high-speed rail line that will go up to 300 miles per hour? "You say, what difference does that make, Biden?
Well, guess what? If you can get on a train and go from here to Washington much faster than you can go in an automobile, you take a train, you take the train. We will take, literally, millions of automobiles off the road -- off the road, saving tens of millions of barrels of oil, dealing with cleaning up the air. This is not hyperbole; this is a fact. These are facts.
Biden said his plan includes $39-billion to "modernize American transit."
I remember riding the trolley. I lived at the end of the line, as they say, in Green Ridge, three blocks, the end of the line. Beyond the end of line with the dump, but Maloney Field was on the right and the Little League baseball field I played in was down the bottom of the hill. But the point is, it made to work.
Most people live in cities. You know, the vast majority of people now, working people, live in cities. Their jobs are out of town, no longer in town, no longer in town, but 65 percent do not own an automobile. They live in a Black or Hispanic neighborhood or a poor neighborhood, and all the time they waste trying to get to work.
Look, more than $7 billion to build out the national network of electric vehicle charging stations. The way my grandpop got up here, my Grandpa Biden who died in Mercy Hospital of an aneurysm when he was 46 years old, two months before I was born in Mercy Hospital -- he was with the American Oil Company. He was up here opening up gas stations in 19 -- that's how he got here.
This was 1942 -- late '42. Well, guess what? The same thing happens. We build these charging stations, what happens? Communities build up around them. You get everything from the figurative McDonald's or the Dunkin' Donuts to the drugstore...
In his 12-minute, off-the-cuff remarks before getting to the point of his visit, Biden showed his fondness for Amtrak and his conductor pals, including a man Biden fondly called "Ange."
He joked that Amtrak "should name half the line after me. I am the most railroad guy you're ever going to meet -- 2,100,000 miles on Amtrak. Hear me now? Not a joke."
What happened was, when you are a president or vice president, they keep meticulous mileage of when you fly in Air Force aircraft.
And so about -- I guess it was seven years into my tenure as vice president, and I used to always like to take Amtrak home on Friday. I tried to go home and see my mom, who was living with us at the time after my dad passed, and I'd try to get home.
And the Secret Service are wonderful, they're the best in the world. They never liked me taking Amtrak because it stops too often and too many people get on, and you don't know.
And -- but I, it turned out I was about number three in seniority on the road at the time, if you're, well, I mean in terms of actual time on the road, and a lot of the folks in Amtrak became my family.
Not a joke. I'd ride every day. I commuted every single day for 36 years as vice president of the United States after my wife and daughter were killed. I went home to see my family, never stopped going, doing that. And so, Angelo Negri was from -- you remember, Ange?
Ange came up to me one day, when I was -- when they just had announced that I had flown 1 million, some X number of miles on Air Force aircraft. And Ange comes up, and I'm getting into the car, and he goes, "Joey, ba-by, what are you--", and I thought the Secret Service is going to shoot him. I said, no, no, no, no, he's good, he's good. It's true story.
And he said, "I just read, big deal -- big deal, whatever it was, 1,200,000 miles, Air Force. You know how many miles you did Amtrak?", and I said "no, Ange, I don't have any idea, pal." He said, "let me tell you, we were at the retirement dinner," and he said, "we added it up, you averaged 100, I think it says 21 days a year, 121 days a year-- 36 years-plus as vice president, boom-boom, you have traveled over 2 million miles, Joe. I don't want to hear any more about the Air Force."
But in the Build Back Better plan, I got more money for passenger rail than the entire Amtrak system cost to begin with. We're going to change the nation in a big way...